Some of Makarova's changes are a little to much like the cutting of many numbers. She cut dances of the betrothal scene divertessment: 'Danse Manu' (of the girl who balances a water jug on her head), the intense 'Indian Dance', and the 'snake charmer' section. Along with this she cut some incidental scenes out, and re-ordered the scenes and dances in the act I palace scene. Her choreography in the last act restoration is awful and not anywhere near the style of the work as a whole. She does such a good job in her choreography of the betrothal scene's opening waltz that you wonder where all her skill went. I do like, however, that she stuck the bronze idol variation as a sort of incedental number in the opening of the last scene. It really captures the mysterious exoticism of that number, and gives it a 'nobodys watching so Im gonna dance' feel.
Luckily the dancers are all excellent here, and are really what make this very stream-lined version work. Assylmoratova stars as Nikiya, whose Vaganova training and expressiveness just about make everyone else on stage look like amateurs (in my opinion) with the exception of her fellow leads, Darcey Bussell as Gamzatti, and Erik Mukhamedov as Solor. Bussell is quite 'Kirov-like' in her dancing, with long limbs and affeminate arms uncharacteristic of Royal Ballet danseuses. She is presice, graceful, and a great actress (watch the 'cat-fight'in Act I scene II, where the heroines feud). Erik Mukhamedov is a Bolshoi trained powerhouse. Combined with obvious English style coaching since he left the Bolshoi for the Royal Ballet, he is an awesome dancer: his grand pas solo is virtuosity at its most high, and a fine partner (Bussell is a little tall for him and he partners her very well). The whole ballet glitters even more when Tetsuya Kumakawa's spectacular Bronze Idol variation makes the polite English audience cheer the loudest they got during this performance. The act I 'Djambe Dance' in the second scene of the first act is well danced by the ballerinas. They seem to have been well coached in style.
The corps does not hold a candle to the Kirov or Paris Opera in the 'Kingdom of the Shades' scene, but they give it thier all and do better than most (especially ABT). The three shades solos are near perfect, if only the first two ballerinas would wipe those stupid smiles off of thier faces, as they have no business in the opulent 'Kingdom of the Shades'. Regardless of our first two shade girl's grins, all of the classical variations in this performance are exmaples of ballet dancing at its best, and the revised Minkus score by Lanchbery gives the soloists a big drum roll at the end of a variation for added affect.
This brings me to the music, Leon Minkus's score is revised here by John Lanchbery. His arrangments give the music color, an exotic feel, and where it lacked in the original composition, depth (hear the original untouched score on the video of the Kirov or Bolshoi Ballet's version). The sets and costumes are grand, while still not being to much. I dont know why Mukhamedov (as Solor) wears the same costume for three acts though......
This film of the Makarova restaging is worth owning most definatly. Although only available in Europe, Rudolf Nureyev's version for the Paris Opera is the best you can get (check out Amazon.co.uk), and is in my opinion the creme de la creme of recordings on film of this ballet at least as far as production goes. The Kirov (or now the Mariinsky Ballet) recently restaged "La Bayadere" to its more or less original state as staged by Petipa in 1900 for his last revival of the work. It is the greatest version of this classic anywhere in the world equally to Nureyev's. Hopefully the Kirov isnt dumb enough to let their recent revival be absent for a long time from DVD or video, or to never be filmed at all. It would be a great disservice to the world of dance. If you cant get a hold of Nureyev's Paris Opera staging this is the best way to go though the soloists on that film arent as great as the video reviewed here. Ill this film here 4 stars for the beauty of its production and great performances, minus 1 for the choreography of the last act, and those stupid smiles on the first two shades soloist's faces.